Maxx Neon by Lina Langley. Half Past Three. 2017.
I liked this one. It’s sweet, and I enjoyed the ways it broke trope with the usual rock star romance. It’s not about the difficulties of fame, which I appreciated. This rock star is tender-hearted and vulnerable and considerate and his rock star persona is pretty femme, and he doesn’t have a long history of casual sex with groupies and mostly just cares about making music. He’s such a sweetheart, I totally fell for him.
The rock star MC, Max, is Afro-Latinx and disabled (chronic back problems). He pushes himself a bit too hard physically, which felt realistic to me. I appreciated the back pain representation, which mostly resonated with my own experience of chronic back pain, though I did think it might be part of how he thought through sex and positions and such things more than was included.
The love interest, Eli, is a playwright who is maybe non-binary? Eli is a bit less clearly drawn. It’s from Max’s POV and it made sense that Eli would be a bit of a mystery given the plot arc, but I would have liked to get to know them a bit more.
I liked the inclusion of a non-binary side character who uses they pronouns, and is in their 50s. That kind of representation is so rare, and it made me really happy to see that character, as an older non-binary reader who also uses they pronouns.
We know Eli uses both he and they pronouns but don’t know much else about their gender, which I especially missed. I was disappointed that Max only thinks of Eli using he/him pronouns, despite Max asking Eli’s pronouns when he first meets them. I really liked that scene, and was hoping that Max might switch back and forth between pronouns. It’s not misgendering, but it’s also not affirming. (I’m using they pronouns in my review, mostly in an effort to balance their absence in the text.) I wished Max didn’t use gendered words like guy and man to refer to Eli before they meet, when he is looking at them from across the room.
I enjoyed the insta-attraction in this book, liked that it was as much emotional as sexual, but that they both tried to pretend it was just about sex. I liked the way they built intimacy, it felt intense and right, the pull and push of it, the way they both were unsure of how much to risk and what the other wanted. This is not your classic one night stand to relationship romance, it feels more intense and emotionally intimate than that. This section of the book were my favorite, the first two thirds of it, basically, until the lovers are separated. They were quite enjoyable as a couple, and felt good to read them.
The separation moments worked, but a core obstacle–I’m referring to Eli’s actions afterwards and what they meant about how they saw Max–felt much bigger than the story seemed to treat it as. It felt like this obstacle just got handwaved away, in a way that made me worry about Max and not feel like they earned a happy for now ending, much less the long term. It felt rushed.
- Afro-Latix disabled man MC
- Non-binary love interest
- Non-binary secondary character
- Queer Latinx enby author
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Sex on the page. Descriptions of chronic pain. Vague references to sex in the past that was not fully consensual. (This is described in a way that’s a bit muddled in the text, which felt pretty realistic to me.) Character who uses he and they pronouns is only ever referred to as he.
- Source of the book: ARC from the author.
- I am friends with the author and we are part of the same queer writers online group.
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